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Council, mayor in sync on charter panel

Despite earlier disagreements over how to establish the Charter Review Committee, the Common Council and Mayor Lawrence V. Soos agreed Wednesday to work together to form the panel.

Proposals to change the charter reached a head after Soos and former Mayor David J. Burgio argued that the Council's recent vote to unionize the city clerk's position was illegal, and threatened to take the city to court.

"This isn't an issue just solely dealing with the city clerk's position. We've been talking about creating a Charter Review Committee for two years, long before the city clerk issue ever popped up," said Council President Brett M. Sommer. "We've had four years under the new charter, and we've seen some unanticipated problems creep up."

In a statement, Sommer recommended that the mayor, the city attorney and each Council member be allowed to make one appointment to the panel.

"This allocation would allow for a seven-member committee," Sommer said. "The rationale for this structure is that each member of the legislative body gets a selection, as does the chief executive of the city. Since this is a document the city attorney will have to implement, defend and interpret, providing a selection for the city attorney seems extremely logical."

Meanwhile, Soos is recommending a 15-member committee that would include four mayoral appointments, one by each Council member and six members approved jointly by the mayor and the Council.

Sommer criticized the size of the mayor's panel.

"It seems like a rather large number to get a consensus vote on," he said. "I think you might be appointing people who possibly might not be as interested."

Soos, however, pointed out that when the charter was revised four years ago, the committee had about 15 members.

"Seven people are not enough," he said. "I hope we can work together. I just want to keep this thing as nonpartisan as possible. I don't want it stacked."

Soos said he plans to ask people who served on the previous panel to join the new committee.

"Most of those people are still around," he noted. "My plan is to ask them to come back. Why would you want to take them out of the equation, when they've already been there?"

First Ward Alderman Philip "Russ" Rizzo was critical of the mayor's plan.

"The people who worked on the original charter worked hard on it," he said. "I just don't think they will come back and say, 'I don't think we thought this through.' "

Residents interested in serving on the charter panel are asked to write City Clerk Thomas M. Jaccarino at 216 Payne Ave., North Tonawanda, NY 14120-5446. The deadline is March 3.

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